Skip to main content

On art and NASCAR (2): Cyril Edward Power

'Speed Trial', 1932, Linocut, Cyril Edward Power

Cyril Edward Power was an interesting man. He was born in 1872 in London, and was trained as an architect. He won the RIBA medal in 1900 (a prestigious architectural award), then worked in his family’s architectural practice, as well as for the Ministry of Works, designing public buildings. In 1912 he published a three-volume ‘History of English Medieval Architecture’ with his own illustrations. He flew with the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, and perhaps this is where his fascination with machinery and movement began. In the 1920s, he gradually turned towards art, particularly printmaking. In 1932, he made the linocut shown above, ‘Speed Trial’.

Power was influenced by the Italian Futurists (discussed in the first post in this series), and their English followers, the Vorticists. This print was made 20 years after the Balla painting I talked about earlier, but it still has that direct, un-ironic admiration for cars and speed, and the belief that these things are symbols of twentieth century modernity. The image is of a very specific car: the Campbell-Napier-Railton Bluebird, the machine in which the English racing motorist Sir Malcolm Campbell broke the land speed record by reaching 246 miles per hour on Daytona Beach. Perhaps Cyril Power created this picture of the Bluebird because he was a patriotic Englishman.  But the way he turned the car and the space around it into a series of parallel swooshing curves shows that he also wanted to create a visual equivalent for what was, at that time, a mind-blowing achievement in speed.

Malcolm Campbell with the 1931 Bluebird at Daytona Beach

Power might have approved of Aldous Huxley’s words: “Speed is the only entirely novel sensation of the twentieth century.”

 Subscribe to Praeterita in a reader


Popular posts from this blog

On my 300th blog post


It's my 300th blog post. And I seem to remember that in my 200th blog post I said that I would start quoting from John Ruskin's "Praeterita", after which this blog was named. Well, better late then never, so quotation number 2 is below.

First, though, some thoughts on this blog and blogging in general. I started Praeterita at the end of last year after reading a book by an art-marketing guru called Alyson Stansfield that recommended it as a means for artists to publicise their work better. But from the start I thought it would be more interesting to talk in a discursive way about my wider interest in art, and artists, and the history of art. After a desultory beginning where I only posted once a week, my blogging habit has now grown to the point where I am posting sometimes twice a day, and more than 45 times per month (helped enormously by the Blogger feature that lets you save blog posts with a post-dated timestamp, so that you can put posts in the bank to …

Brancusi in Plastic

Artist Mary Ellen Croteau is showing these columns made from recycled plastic cartons and lids in the window of the Columbia College bookstore on Michigan Avenue. They are a playful homage to Brancusi's "Endless Columns", with a serious environmental message for our times:

Mary Ellen also runs a wonderful experimental art gallery in a window space in west Chicago, called Art on Armitage. I will be exhibiting a mixed media piece there during August 2012.

How to etch a linoleum block

Linoleum as a material for printmaking has been used for nearly a hundred years now. Normally, you cut an image out using special gouges similar to woodcut tools, cutting away the lino around the image you want to print. This is called relief printmaking, because if you look at the block from the side, the material that remains stands up in relief from the backing material. You then roll ink with a brayer over the surface of the block, place paper over it, and either print by hand or run it through a press. You can do complex things this way (for example, reduction linocuts), but the beauty of the process is that it is quick, simple, and direct.

A few years ago, I saw some prints that were classified as coming from etched linoleum blocks, and I loved the textures I saw in them. In the last few months, I've been trying to use this technique in my own studio, learning about it as one does these days from websites and YouTube videos. I've also had email exchanges with several pr…